The Benefits of Nettle

What Should I Know About It?

stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Diane Macdonald/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

What Is Nettle?

Also known as "stinging nettle" or "nettles," nettle (Urtica dioica) is an herbal remedy derived from the leaves or root of the stinging nettle bush.

Uses for Nettle

In alternative medicine, nettle has long been used to treat a number of health problems, including:

Benefits of Nettles

Although research on nettle's health effects is limited, studies suggest that the herb may show promise in treatment of the following conditions:

1) Enlarged Prostate

A research review published in 2007 indicates that nettle may help relieve complaints associated with enlargement of the prostate gland (a condition also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia). However, the review authors note that more studies need to confirm the herb's beneficial effects before nettle can be recommended as a treatment option for men with enlarged prostate.

2) Allergies

A number of studies show that nettle may help manage allergies and ease symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, and itching. In one study published in 2009, scientists discovered that nettle may help treat allergies by reducing inflammation.

3) Osteoarthritis

A small study (published in 2000) found that topically applied nettle may help ease osteoarthritis pain.

Caveats

Nettles may trigger side effects such as stomach upset, skin irritation, sweating, and skin rash.

Since nettle can interact with certain drugs, it's important to consult your physician if you're currently taking antiplatelet, anticoagulants, blood pressure medicine, diuretics, diabetes medication, and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

 Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Using Nettles for Health

Sold in many health food stores and pharmacies, nettle can be found in capsule, tincture and tea form. Freeze-dried preparations of nettle leaf are also available. When treating osteoarthritis and other types of joint pain, consider using a topically applied nettle-based cream.

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend nettles as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using nettles for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Sources:

Chrubasik JE, Roufogalis BD, Wagner H, Chrubasik S. "A comprehensive review on the stinging nettle effect and efficacy profiles. Part II: urticae radix." Phytomedicine. 2007 14(7-8):568-79.

Mittman P. "Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis." Planta Med. 1990 56(1):44-7.

Randall C, Randall H, Dobbs F, Hutton C, Sanders H. "Randomized controlled trial of nettle sting for treatment of base-of-thumb pain." J R Soc Med. 2000 93(6):305-9.

Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, McMichael M, Alberte RS. "Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis." Phytother Res. 2009 23(7):920-6.

Thornhill SM, Kelly AM. "Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis." Altern Med Rev. 2000 5(5):448-54.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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